Archive of U.S. Sanctuary Policies, 2001-2014

Permanent URI for this community

Welcome to this open-access archive of United States immigration sanctuary policies! We are glad you are here and hope that through engaging with these policies you gain a greater understanding of sanctuary as a process and the variegated forms it can assume. We also hope that this body of policies helps contextualize and shed light on current immigration debates and legislative practices.

This archive begins in 2001 because of the anti-immigrant perspectives that surfaced more strongly from local to national scales following September 11th, 2001. Many sanctuary policies also emerged in response to the expanded authorization of local law enforcement to conduct federal immigration enforcement post 9/11. The 287(g) agreements from the 1996 "Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act" helped enable this extension of immigration enforcement practices to the local scale.

We conclude the archive in 2014 since the Secure Communities program, which sparked many sanctuary efforts as well, terminated in 2014. In January 2017, then President Donald Trump reinstated Secure Communities with Executive Order (EO) 13768. In January 2021, President Joe Biden revoked this EO. It is important to note that the sharing of fingerprints between enforcement agencies still happens even though Secure Communities is no longer a formal program in place to facilitate such data sharing.

While the conclusion of our archive is a decade ago, the differences in how sanctuary plays out illustrate that places are unique so the strategies used to resist or facilitate the local enforcement of immigration policies vary as well. This finding is still the case so our archive captures an important snapshot in recent immigration enforcement history and remains relevant as questions about immigration enforcement persist.

This archive focuses entirely on sanctuary policies within the U.S., although sanctuary practices and policies are also evident in other places, such as Canada and the United Kingdom. We remain keenly aware of the partial nature of our archive as the aspiration of gathering all the sanctuary policies in the U.S. proved to be practically and discursively challenging.

The 234 policies in this archive are all subfederal policies – meaning policies passed at the county or city/town scale – that fit our criteria for sanctuary. Since there is no formal definition of immigration sanctuary policy in the U.S., we define sanctuary policies as “mayoral executive orders (EOs), ordinances, police department and county sheriff office policing policies, and resolutions that regulate a municipal authority’s actions and express its views on immigration policies and local enforcement. In particular, the policies resist the devolution of federal immigration enforcement to the local scale, assert the right to delineate the ways in which local authorities interface with residents, and articulate practices for building greater belonging and membership among all residents” (Houston 2019, 565). Not all the policies in this archive use the specific term “sanctuary” to describe local responses to immigration. Still, each policy demonstrates a local response to federal immigration policies and falls into our definition of sanctuary.

Below you will find the policies divided into four collections by the type of policy. Once you click on a policy entry within each collection, you will gain access to a simple record of the policy. You can access the full metadata associated with the policy by clicking the “Full item page” button on the simple record page. You can reach a PDF of the policy from the simple record or full item record page. You can download the policies for further study. These policies are a part of public record and appear in the form that we received them through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, online city and county archives, and direct communication with municipal government employees. If you have questions about the archive, please contact:

Please visit this archive's accompanying story maps: Mapping U.S. Sanctuary Policies (desktop and laptop version) or Mapping U.S. Sanctuary Policies (mobile-friendly version)


Communities in this Community

Now showing 1 - 1 of 1
  • If you are interested in the work cited in our story maps and archive, please see the references listed in this folder.

Collections in this Community

Now showing 1 - 4 of 4

The intention with this open-access archive is to provide evidence-based information about immigration sanctuary policies so as to nuance and inform public understandings of local immigration enforcement practices and concerns. Please note we typically maintain direct language from the policy documents in the metadata abstracts to preserve accuracy of the content. In some cases, we have made slight edits to clarify points and modified language to expand inclusivity. However, other than ensuring the documents have Optical Character Recognition (OCR), the documents have not been altered and appear in their original forms.

Please use these materials to deepen your understandings of sanctuary in the U.S. and do not use them to produce harm or further create precarity and discrimination in the lives of noncitizens and citizens alike. If it becomes apparent that policies from this archive are not being utilized for positive informational and educational purposes, we will restrict access. Please ensure that all can benefit from access to these sanctuary policies by following these guidelines.

Mapping U.S. Sanctuary Policies (desktop and laptop version) and Mapping U.S. Sanctuary Policies (mobile-friendly version) by Serin D. Houston and Anastasia Tucker are licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

References: Houston, S. 2019. Conceptualizing Sanctuary as a Process in the United States.Geographical Review 109(4), 562-579.

This page was last updated in June 2024.